What Would Remain of Our Tragedies If a Literate Insect Were To Offer Us Hers?

Emil M. Cioran? W. H. Auden? Louis Kronenberger? Richard Howard? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Humans experience many tragedies, but contemplating the extreme hardships faced by other creatures provides a sobering perspective. The Romanian and French literary figure Emil M. Cioran said something like the following:

What would be left of our tragedies if an insect were to present us his?

Would you please help me to find a citation:

Quote Investigator: In 1952 Emil M. Cioran published “Syllogismes de l’amertume”. The title of this French book has been translated into English as “All Gall Is Divided” although a more direct rendering is “Syllogisms of Bitterness”. The following passage is from the 2013 Kindle edition: 1

Quand Eschyle ou Tacite vous semblent trop tièdes, ouvrez une Vie des Insectes – révélation de rage et d’inutilité, enfer qui, heureusement pour nous, n’aura ni dramaturge ni chroniqueur. Que resterait-il de nos tragédies si une bestiole lettrée nous présentait les siennes?

Richard Howard formulated the following translation: 2

When Aeschylus or Tacitus seems tepid, open a Life of the Insects — a revelation of rage and futility, an inferno which, fortunately for us, will have neither a playwright nor a chronicler. What would remain of our tragedies if a literate bug were to offer us his?

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading What Would Remain of Our Tragedies If a Literate Insect Were To Offer Us Hers?

Notes:

  1. 2013 (1952 Copyright), Title: Cioran: Syllogismes de l’amertume (Syllogisms of Bitterness or All Gall Is Divided), Author: E. M. Cioran (Emil Mihai Cioran), Section: Aux sources de vide (Where the Void Begins), Location: “Insectes” is located at 1227 of 1434, Publisher: Édition Électronique, Éditions Gallimard, Paris, France. (Kindle Edition)
  2. 2012, All Gall Is Divided: The Aphorisms of a Legendary Iconoclast by E. M. Cioran, Translated by Richard Howard, Section: Where the Void Begins, Unnumbered Page, Arcade Publishing, New York. (Verified with ebook)